or Build it and they will come, so long as you tell them about it!
Planning a great event is one thing, letting folks know about is another. When you first began your event design plans hopefully you were thoughtful about who you hoped would attend your program. Now that you have your budget worked out and your reservations and contracts prepared, you have to make sure your audience knows about the event. There is an old maxim in the advertising world that says folks need to hear about something at least 3 times before they "commit". First mention peaks curiosity, second mention moves the potential audience member to consider if it will fit into their lives, 3rd mention reminds them to show up.
Making a Publicity Plan
Be sure you have a clear & effective name and “look” for the material that will announce your event. Before reproducing and distributing any materials, give it the test…an extra set of eyes/ears. Look at the promotional materials as if you were someone who knew absolutely nothing about the upcoming event or have a friend or advisor who have not been directly involved in your event planning to look over your materials. Does the image/wording/audio track of the advertising get its message across to you clearly?
Have you remembered to include the WHAT / WHERE / WHEN / WHO and the Contact and Sponsor info for your event?
If you have a website with more info, have you included the address on all of your materials? (If you have an outdated website, consider modifying it, since folks might be looking there for info. An outdated website will decrease their confidence in your ability to host a good event.)
Who do you most want to invite?
Different audiences require different publicity strategies. There is no such thing as an event that is of interest to everyone, nor a homogenous audience for any particular event. Give thought to the language/ images you choose for your publicity materials. Do they exclude/offend individuals or groups of people that you want to reach? Is there a language or slang barrier that you can minimize?
It takes knowledge and creativity to attract the attention of your desired audience. Some examples of specific audiences include: sophomores, staff (day shift/ night shift), faculty, South Hadley residents, five college peers, families, athletes, physics majors, Nepali students, community service workers, 21-25 yr. olds, people of color, opera fans, LGBT contittuencies, Spanish speakers, etc.... What promotional messages will speak best to each audience?
Have you thought about how you can reach different audiences that might struggle with your primary promotions medium for a variety of reasons, e.g. print is too small, text is English only, materials are visual only (or auditory only), materials are only posted in places that are not accessible to wheelchair users in our community, etc. "Barrier free" and "Universal Design" practices to reduce social exclusion of individuals are increasing in our society and new and creative approaches to meeting a diversity of needs in event hosting are becoming more commonplace.
See the "Making your event more inclusive" for related topics.
Designing Smart Materials
- Smart publicity conveys confidence, quality and all of the important event facts in an easy to grasp fashion. You should prepare as many of the following as time and resources will allow.
- Word Of Mouth – Don’t forget the easiest. Be sure all members of your own group are well informed and charged up about the upcoming event so that they can talk it up!
- E-mail announcements – prepare a short announcement that will promote your event accurately and enthusiastically through email. It is worth remembering that e-mail reads a bit differently to people than a poster or flyer might; again put your ad to the test before hitting “send”. Use “target” lists to address the people most likely to be interested – do not randomly “spam” it irritates people and works against you.
- Facebook, and other online ads – use announcements similar to email to post to newsgroups, again proof material before hitting SEND! Remember that once you are posting on the internet you have a potentially GLOBAL audience that will need to know that you are in South Hadley, Mass. and who you really intend to invite.
- Press Release – prepare a short, to the point memo announcing the event. These are used sometimes exactly as they are written for inclusion in newspapers, on web sites or in newsletters. They are also used to inform journalists who may wish to report further on your upcoming event.
- Flyers – use recycled paper. be sure your master will copy clearly. print in batches, to prevent waste. flyer in approved and high traffic places. A reasonable number of attractive and well-placed posters can have positive impact selling your event. Plastering a few places with a lot of posters only guarantees that they will get removed or covered up - be smart. You'll need to poster a few times - because posters often get buried. Varying the look of your flyers each week can help too - people will see it in a new way.
- Table Tents & Handbills – mini flyer formats can help you spread the word person-to-person, or table-to-table.
- Larger/ Color Posters – these can range from hand lettered poster board to full color designs printed professionally; obviously the scope of your event will help you determine this expense – as will the available locations for hanging large posters.
- “Camera-Ready” Ads – for use in local newspapers, newsletters, these "place ads" as they are called are generally expensive but excellent for large productions.
- Campus Center Displays – there are some reservable bulletin boards, info tables, and display areas in the Blanchard Campus Center.
- Banners – a tradition at MHC. Event Banners (typically painted on an inexpensive sheet) can be hung in several reservable banner locations on campus.
- Radio Ads – taped announcements advertising your event. You plan out what the ad will say/sound like and work with radio station representative to record it. Prices vary by length of ad, frequency of airplay, quality of time slots and the various radio stations.
- Radio Interviews & PSA’s – a typically no-cost alternative to radio ads is to arrange an interview between a station DJ and a member of your event team or your hired performer. WMHC also offers PSA’s (Public Service Announcements - brief mentions) free of charge to registered student groups.
- Cable TV – Live interviews or promotional video supplied to local cable programs.
- Web site info – even if no one in your organization knows how to create/edit a website, if you are prepared to design the information for the web page and can draw up a list of appropriate sites to which you would link your event information, you will likely find a fellow student who could put the page up for you, or you can receive instruction at LITS.
- Direct Mail – If you think your event has a specific target audience you might consider doing a direct mailing of postcards or the like to that group.
- Increase ticket-buying opportunities, if applicable, with consistent times and convenient locations.
Publicity Distribution Plan
Ask at the Student Program’s Event Coordinator for five college area press and media contacts, and advice. Plan ahead - the most successful area coverage requires several weeks lead time to meet deadlines. When designing your advertising be creative and inventive but don't forget to include all necessary information. Follow posting guidelines. Care should be taken to avoid any offensive language or illustrations, and to remember that events that are held on campus reflect upon the reputation of Mount Holyoke College. Discretion and good common sense are required.
Five College Calendar & MHC Master Calendar
You can have your event included on these calendars by indicating so on your Event Registration Form (ERF). Information can also be submitted via Event Services, the Facilities Scheduler in the Conference and Events Office as late as 3 business days prior to the event. Obviously, however, you will be better served by earlier submission and longer exposure.
The final week is crucial. The week of the event you should make it a point to flyer again. Update postings. Make reminder announcements at related events. Consider free promotional giveaways and attention getting gimmicks. Chalk sidewalks. Talk it up with friends. Even those who had planned to attend will forget the date if they don't get reminders as the event approaches.